For the first three years of my life there were no churches near enough for me to attend, but as soon as we returned to "civilization" church became a part of every Sunday (or, more recently, Saturday evening). As i became more independent in my thinking, the churches got more liberal, but my habit of church attendance far outlasted any reasons i had for attending. At one point i drove 120 miles each Sunday to attend "the Church of my Choice."
By the time i married Dianne, i had long ago "lost my faith" and had almost abandoned the practice of churchgoing. Dianne was a recent convert to her Faith (she had restrained herself for many years out of deference to her parents). She was, and has remained, devout. She feared that, by marrying me, she had cut herself off from certain important religious practices. In the process of straightening this out we both began attending her church. We have continued to do this for forty years.
Like the Spanish poet Machado, i attend church because my fife attends. I adore her while she is adoring her God. She wishes that this were not so. So do i, but i fear it cannot be helped. Spiritually, i and organized, formal religion seem to be moving in opposite directions. Perhaps only a theory of curved space can rejoin us. Though my friends are very tolerant, my antatgonism toward formal relligion annoys some of them; and they are probably rightly annoyed.
Recently Dianne's Church has tried to restore certain language that recaptures its early history. I see this as an attempt to do some of the progress that the Church has made in the last fifty years. To me, "peace and goodwill to all" means one thing, "peace to all of goodwill" means something entirely different and i rebel at using or hearing the second formula, When Exodus 13 is read, i think about drowning horses rather than a miraculous escape from slavery.
My favorite priest always begins the service by asking, i our behalf, that all those things be put aside that might prevent our "receiving benefit from what we do and what we say here.' and i have tried to take this to heart. But old habits die hard. Instead pf adoring my beloved as she adores her Beloved, i find myself nitpicking the scripture, the sermon and the rites.
So a couple of months ago i decided to turn over a new leaf.
And its not going too badly. And the universe is cooperating. Father J has preached his usual inclusive and compassionate sermons; Deacon P. preached a fine sermon; and the new priest from Mexico, Father Jose has given three fine sermons. To top it off, my favorite hymn, "I Shall Not Die," has been the closing song twice in the past month. "Take what you like and leave the rest" is again good advice.